Constitutional Law

New Turmoil in Embattled Ariz. County as Appeals Court Bans Sheriff from Searching Judge's Computers


In the latest turmoil in an Arizona county in which the sheriff’s office and a government lawyer are virtually at war with members of the judiciary and elected officials, a state appeals court has issued a temporary restraining order barring the execution of a search warrant on the home and courthouse computers of Maricopa County’s presiding judge.

Arguing that a search warrant or warrants apparently obtained yesterday by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to search the “mirror image” computers in her home and court chambers are an abuse of discretion, Judge Barbara Mundell persuaded the Court of Appeals to issue an emergency ex parte order banning the search without hearing any argument from the sheriff’s office, reports the Arizona Republic.

The planned search, Mundell also contended, was an attempt to circumvent a prior appellate court ruling that the sheriff’s office could not obtain court e-mail.

A telephone status hearing was scheduled this afternoon. The newspaper article provides a link to the court order in the case.

As discussed in earlier ABAJournal.com posts, Arpaio and a county attorney filed a criminal complaint earlier this week charging the county’s top criminal judge, Gary Donahoe, with felonies based on his court rulings in cases concerning investigations by the sheriff of other government officials.

The sheriff has alleged wide-ranging misconduct by county supervisors and judges related to a $340 million courthouse project. However, critics say his concerns, if legitimate, should be pursued by federal or state authorities.

In yet another Maricopa court incident that recently made headlines, a sheriff’s officer was jailed after he refused to apologize to a lawyer in a Maricopa County judge’s courtroom for taking a confidential attorney-client document. He was recently released, pending an appeal.

Additional coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Criminal Case Against Ariz. Judge Raises Questions About Prosecution”

East Valley Tribune: “Maricopa County in turmoil: Thomas, Arpaio vs. supervisors, judges”

Phoenix News Blog (Phoenix New Times): “Arpaio and Thomas Thwarted Again in Quest to Read Court E-mail”

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